On Teaching Exploration: The Pigeon Paper

In homeschooling my children I always did three things: used original source materials (no textbooks, if we studied optics then I had them read the works of Newton, not textbooks on Newton or textbooks on optics), insisted they do labs (practical, experimental, scientific, artistic, etc.) once a week on most subjects, and I assured I spent one a day a week with them (usually a Friday) exploring, on field trips, doing field research, etc.

These things go back to my own early education, or I picked them up in college.

Actually I first developed the habit of reading original sources in middle and high school and in my advanced science classes and for the papers I wrote for various colleges when in middle and high school. Use of textbooks in middle and high schools for college papers was wholly insufficient. But in college I disavowed textbooks completely. For instance after my freshman year in college I eschewed textbooks and stopped reading them altogether and instead just started reading only original sources. Things like original sources, experimentation, learning foreign languages, exploration, etc. have been invaluable in improving the quality of my children’s education and in improving the quality of my own education.

And if there is one thing every individual needs it is a high quality education.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

by Jan Priddy

z pigeons.jpg (c) 2016 photo by Dinty W.Moore

In my college writing class I assign “The Pigeon Paper.” This is a short expository essay written to address a one-word topic—write about “squash” or write about “salt”—a paper completed in ten days. The first year it was about pigeons—hence the name. We began the assignment by brainstorming what we knew individually about pigeons and considering different structures for an expository paper (comparison, chronology, description); overnight each of us researched and the next day we brought in research and each proposed three potential topics and approaches; then we had a few days to complete a draft for peer editing in class, and a final draft of the paper was handed in the following day.

Long before I began teaching, I had faith both in assignments and research. I believe writing creates learning, because it forces us to examine our knowledge in the…

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